art exhibitions, Poetry

Don’t you wish you could fly?

abstract painting by Eoin Mac Lochlainn in VUE, RHA gallery 2016

Ah yes, me too.  And skylarks – I love hearing their never-ending song of joy somewhere, high in the sky above Kippure. So, when Olivier Cornet asked us to respond to the poem Élévation by Charles Baudelaire, for his themed exhibition at VUE, I think I knew immediately what I wanted to do.

VUE is Ireland’s annual Contemporary Art Fair and it opens tonight, the 3rd of November at the RHA Gallery in Dublin.  It’s not only the Dublin galleries, of course – there’ll be eighteen of Ireland’s top contemporary art galleries there, all vying for your attention and promoting their own particular strands of contemporary art.

But I think that the Olivier Cornet Gallery’s show will be special this year, the exhibition inspired by Baudelaire’s poem, looks really enthralling. The poem is about aspirations and ideals, and the notion of rising above the trials and tribulations of this troubled world… Goodness knows we could do with some of that these days, wouldn’t you say?

paintings by Eoin Mac Lochlainn at VUE 2016 at the RHA gallery, Dublin

I include an English translation of the poem below, by William Aggeler.  As you can see above, I’ve been working on a pair of paintings for the show, the smaller one is entitled: “Vale of Tears”.  You might’ve seen the sky one before… I’m not sure if it’s going to be a vertical diptych or just two separate pieces… any thoughts?

Above the lakes, above the vales,
The mountains and the woods, the clouds, the seas,
Beyond the sun, beyond the ether,
Beyond the confines of the starry spheres,

My soul, you move with ease,
And like a strong swimmer in rapture in the wave
You wing your way blithely through boundless space
With virile joy unspeakable.

Fly far, far away from this baneful miasma
And purify yourself in the celestial air,
Drink the ethereal fire of those limpid regions
As you would the purest of heavenly nectars.

Beyond the vast sorrows and all the vexations
That weigh upon our lives and obscure our vision,
Happy is he who can with his vigorous wing
Soar up towards those fields luminous and serene,

He whose thoughts, like skylarks,
Toward the morning sky take flight
Who hovers over life and understands with ease
The language of flowers and silent things!

From The Flowers of Evil (Fresno, CA: Academy Library Guild, 1954)

The official opening of VUE is tonight, from 6 – 8pm and it continues until Sunday, the 6th of November.  Entry is free.  More details at the links below.


art, Poetry

Books, Poems and Billycan Bombs

Mary Plunkett : Limited Edition Book, with the selected poetry of Joseph Mary Plunkett and George Noble Count Plunkett. Dos-a-dos layout, signed by the artist.
Mary Plunkett : Limited Edition Book, with the selected poetry of Joseph Mary Plunkett and George Noble Count Plunkett. Dos-a-dos layout, signed by the artist.

Yes, so I’m sure you’ve heard of the poet Joseph Mary Plunkett who was executed after the Easter Rising of 1916 but did you know that he had a brother called George who was also involved. And George was the grandfather of Mary Plunkett who is participating in “Republic”, a group exhibition at the Olivier Cornet Gallery. And her great grandfather was the Count Plunkett.

But speaking of the Plunketts, I have to tell you a story about the Kimmage Garrison which was billeted out in the Plunkett residence in Larkfield, Kimmage before the Rising. They were marching into Dublin on Easter Monday, under the command of George Plunkett, but it was looking like they were going to be late, so George took out his pistol, stepped out into the road and he held up the Harold’s Cross Tram. 52 volunteers clambered onto the tram with their guns, provisions and billycan bombs, and then George paid the 52 tupenny fares to the GPO.

And the Count: George Noble Count Plunkett was also a poet and some of his poems feature in the exhibition. I include one here below and then, a few more images after the poem.  And if you’re around this evening (Thursday) there’s a panel discussion in the gallery at 7pm – a National Heritage Week event, it’s free, all are welcome…


The Shining Woman   – by George Noble Count Plunkett

The morn the Shining Woman

was standing in my way,

she said, ‘You’ve looked for many a one,

but did you look for me?

If you’re my man you’ll suffer stripes

from high and low degree,

come make your choice, to live at ease,

or die because of me.’


I said, ‘O Shining Woman,

your love no man denies,

but I am to be married

to a girl that’s to my mind;

and must I leave her kindly arms,

a faithful soul desert,

because you come and call me

like a fairy from the earth?’


Then spoke the Shining Woman,

‘Now look at me’, she said,

and when I looked I saw the face

of the girl that I would wed:

I knew her smile, I knew her voice

that bid me be foresworn,

but to the Shining Woman

for all I would not turn.


I said, ‘O Shining Woman,

my mother waits at home,

I am her only staff and stay

my father being gone.

Must I give up her lonely bones,

my father’s name belie,

because a lovely stranger

would send me on the way?’


Then spoke the Shining Woman,

‘Now look at me’, she said,

and when I looked I saw the eyes

my mother has for me,

and in my mother’s voice she spoke,

‘Your father he was true,

and would you have him in his grave

to turn away from you?’


I said, ‘O Shining Woman,

you hold my heart alone,

though I may tramp the rugged hills

or stand beside your throne.

I’ll live for you, and be content

to lie below the sod,

if I can strike a blow for you

And keep my soul for God!’


Now, there was plenty more good work in the exhibition ( which is coming to an end on the 31st of August). I just want to show a few more gems here, but if you can, drop into the gallery yourself for a look, it’s always better to see the works in real life…

Beatrice O'Connell, 'Cherish all the children I', oil on canvas (27x34cm)
Beatrice O’Connell:  ‘Cherish all the children I’, 2016
David Fox: 'The Gates-Springfield Rd II, 2016
David Fox: ‘The Gates-Springfield Rd II’, 2016
Eve Parnell: 'A noble failure is not vain...' (from 'O'Connell Street' by Francis Ledwidge)
Eve Parnell: ‘A noble failure is not vain…’ (from ‘O’Connell Street’ by Francis Ledwidge)

David Fox artist/


art, Poetry

magnificent, mysterious messengers

"If you could hear..." by Eve Parnell
“If you could hear…”   pencil drawing by Eve Parnell, 2016

Ravens – na Fiacha dubha – I always loved those magnificent blue-black birds.  Up in the Wicklow mountains, miles from anywhere,  you might hear one…   just somewhere up there between heaven and earth, you’d hear its hoarse caw and then it would appear from over a hill, freewheeling across the sky.

This week, I want to mention a beautiful exhibition of drawings by Eve Parnell that is on at the moment in The Long Gallery, Parliament Buildings, Stormont. These are drawings of Ravens,  drawings to commemorate all those who died 100 years ago, in the Easter Rising and in the Battle of the Somme. She selected a number of significant lines of poetry from the time, from poems by Thomas Hardy, Patrick Pearse, WB Yeats, Wilfred Owen and Rupert Brooke, to name a few, and she inscribed these on ribbons that were held in the beaks of the ravens.

Ravens sometimes get a bad press, being carrion feeders and consequently being associated with war and death but… (and some people even give out about their hoarse caw!) but I like them. And some people view them as messengers from the Gods… Have you ever seen one flying upside down? – magnificent, mysterious birds.

The exhibition continues until the 24th of June.


art, Poetry

“Was it for this the wild geese spread the grey wing upon every tide? – For this that all the blood was shed…”

small oil painting of Patrick Pearse by Eoin Mac Lochlainn

I would’ve thought that Yeats Day was just a very special day up in Sligo but no, it’s actually over two and a half weeks long! This extravaganza of poetry, drama, lectures, exhibitions, music (and cake) is a celebration of one of Ireland’s great poets and they tell me that it’s a chance to celebrate and promote creativity in Ireland and to reconsider the role of culture, community and the arts in the contemporary world. (more about that on the Yeats2016 website here  )

Hmm – hasn’t the new government just downgraded the department of Arts again. And 80% of visual artists in Ireland still living below the poverty threshold, most of them depending on the support of family members to survive.  Maybe this year, as we commemorate those who died in the Easter Rising – ‘the poet’s rising’, as someone called it – maybe it’s time alright, to think about what value we put on the arts and on the artists. Would you say that perhaps we’re taken for granted in some quarters?

But anyway, if you’re reading this,  I know you’re not one of those people 🙂 and I just meant to tell you about this one exhibition up in Sligo. It’s entitled: “A terrible beauty is born” and it opens tonight, Thursday 2nd of June in the Hamilton Gallery on Castle Street. It features the work of over 70 of Ireland’s contemporary visual artists, responding to the Yeats’ poem – “Easter 1916”.  That’s my painting from the show, up above. The exhibition continues until the 27th of August.

And, you might have noticed that I don’t often refer to articles in the Irish Independent newspaper in this blog – but here’s a link to one below, an article by Kirsty Blake Knox that ‘tells it like it is’ …

As usual your comments are always welcome.



art, Poetry

Decisions, Decisions – which would you choose?

oil painting of Tinteán by Eoin Mac Lochlainn

Well I got a painting accepted for the RHA annual exhibition this week but yes, I was talking last week about “the huddled masses” queuing up in the rain with their paintings, and I wondered where the term “huddled masses” came from. You probably know this but actually it comes from a poem by the American poet Emma Lazarus, a poem that was written as a donation to an art auction to fundraise for the pedestal for the Statue of Liberty, no less.

Give me your tired, your poor,

your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-toss’d to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!


So, to continue with the metaphor, this weekend the wretched refuse of artists will be back again at the RHA to pick up their rejected artworks. We all have to queue up to hand in our crumpled dockets and wait to be called to take away our unfortunate paintings, hastily covered up with secondhand bubblewrap to hide our wretched shame… Oh but, nach raibh an cruatan i gcónaí i ndán dos na Gaeil…

Now, here’s a question for you! The thing is – I don’t know at the moment, which one got in and which one was rejected. You can see them here, which one would you pick? And why? Your comments are always welcome – click on the brown speech bubble and put your comment there.  Thanks, eoin

oil painting of empty fireplace by Eoin Mac Lochlainn


art, Poetry

Is there anyone there?

oil painting of empty fireplace by Eoin Mac Lochlainn

“Is there anybody there?” said the traveller, knocking on the moonlit door  –  I love that poem by Walter de la Mare.  I thought of it when I stood in an old abandoned house in Kerry. Abandoned after Christmas, I thought, the old Christmas wreath disintegrating on the floor… and I wondered what happened to the picture above the fireplace. Did they take it with them? or did that just disintegrate too? But who were they, and where are they now?  I had so many questions  – but only a host of phantom listeners that dwelt in the lone house then, stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight to my voice from the world of men…

Well, since it’s still Christmas, I’m going to give you the whole poem –

The Listeners  – by Walter de la Mare

“Is there anybody there?” said the Traveller,   

Knocking on the moonlit door;

And his horse in the silence champed the grasses   

Of the forest’s ferny floor:

And a bird flew up out of the turret,   

Above the Traveller’s head:

And he smote upon the door again a second time;   

“Is there anybody there?” he said.

But no one descended to the Traveller;   

No head from the leaf-fringed sill

Leaned over and looked into his grey eyes,   

Where he stood perplexed and still.

But only a host of phantom listeners   

That dwelt in the lone house then

Stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight

To that voice from the world of men:

Stood thronging the faint moonbeams on the dark stair,   

That goes down to the empty hall,

Hearkening in an air stirred and shaken   

By the lonely Traveller’s call.

And he felt in his heart their strangeness,   

Their stillness answering his cry,

While his horse moved, cropping the dark turf,   

’Neath the starred and leafy sky;

For he suddenly smote on the door, even   

Louder, and lifted his head:—

“Tell them I came, and no one answered,   

That I kept my word,” he said.

Never the least stir made the listeners,   

Though every word he spake

Fell echoing through the shadowiness of the still house   

From the one man left awake:

Ay, they heard his foot upon the stirrup,

And the sound of iron on stone,

And how the silence surged softly backward,   

When the plunging hoofs were gone.


Source: The Collected Poems of Walter de la Mare (1979)

The painting above is 50 x 50cm, oil on canvas (still wet). It’s from my ongoing series of paintings of empty fireplaces in abandoned homes in the West of Ireland.  More of them can be seen at the Olivier Cornet Gallery at:


art, Poetry

Is Romantic Ireland dead and gone, would you say?

portrait of W.B. Yeats an oil painting by Eoin Mac Lochlainn
“Hazelwood”, 20 x 20cm, oil on canvas, 2015

I know, there’s an awful lot on about the poet W.B.Yeats at the moment, you might be getting tired of it but… well I just have to tell you this and then I’ll stop, I promise.  I got an invitation this morning, to an extra special, once-in-a-lifetime event, celebrating Yeats’s poetry in Sligo on Yeats’s Day. But just wait till you hear who’ll be at it! – This event features the Chair of Irish Poetry, Paula Meehan; the Poet Laureate of England, Carol Ann Duffy; the National Poet of Wales, Gillian Clarke; the National Poet of Scotland, Liz Lochhead; the London Laureate, Aisling Fahey and the Northern Irish Poet, Sinead Morrissey. And in the midst of all that Pageantry and Poetry, our own Uachtarán/poet: Michael D. Higgins, will be the special guest for the evening.

So how come I was invited? Well, maybe you heard that the Hamilton Gallery in Sligo invited over 50 of Ireland’s leading contemporary visual artists to create an artwork, inspired by the life and writings of the poet W.B. Yeats – all sorts of wonderful artists including (ahem) RHA members James Hanley, Martin Gale and Nick Miller, and others including Ian Wieczorek, Brian McDonagh, Trudie Mooney and yes – me!  The exhibition is entitled: Impressions and Portraits of W.B. Yeats and is described as ‘a compelling, contemporary response to the work of one of our literary giants for his 150th birthday’.  All the artworks are only 20 centimetres square. That’s mine above and yes, you’re right – I’ve also completed a much bigger portrait of Yeats for the Hodges Figgis Bookshop, for a show curated by Olivier Cornet.  That’s the one below.

"Golden", 90 x 120cm, oil on canvas, 2015
“Golden”, 90 x 120cm, oil on canvas, 2015

But back to the question about Romantic Ireland?  Hmmm… well, there must be some reason why so much is being made of Yeats’s poetry, 75 years after he died. Are we all Romantics at heart? And yet, people are so cynical these days, so dismissive of the Romantic’s dream… What do you think?  What is meant by ‘Romantic Ireland’, for starters? Romanticism, according to Wikipedia, was  ‘an artistic, literary, and intellectual movement that originated in Europe in the 18th century… a reaction to the Industrial Revolution and the Age of Enlightenment… emphasising the primacy of the emotions over rational thought’.  I understand it as a yearning for the past, for Paradise Lost, a yearning for a time, long long ago when humankind was at one with nature, when warriors and heroes roamed the earth… Perhaps Yeats was referring back to the days of the mythological Fionn Mac Cumhaill and his legendary knights Na Fianna,  (the motto of Na Fianna was: Glaine inár gcroíthe, Neart inár ngéaga agus Beart de réir ár mbriathar – ie: Purity in our hearts, Strength in our limbs and Truth in our words).

Perhaps he was just sick of the leaders and politcians of the day, and sick of the way the country was going. Sound familiar?  “Being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy, which sustained him through temporary periods of joy.” – that’s a quote from Yeats. It sounds to me like he was talking about himself!

So, as you see, I don’t have an answer for you. Is Romantic Ireland dead and gone? Did it ever really exist? Are you yearning for a fairer, more honourable society? I’d love to hear your views.

And the art exhibition in the Hamilton Gallery will continue until the 29th of August.  More details at And there’s more about my paintings at:  and

and more about the Yeats celebrations at:

and just for you, here’s a wonderful rendition of The Song of Wandering Aengus by actor Michael Gambon. This is from the “Yeatsday” website :